Since I have been cruising the job boards for project manager positions, I have noticed an interesting trend in most of them. The typical job description for a PM doesn’t usually list a “formal performance review” for members of the team (as in the role of the HR department), but I have noticed that a lot of them are listing “team direction and feedback” and “ensuring team meets performance metrics”. That sounds fairly obvious but in reality there is a fine art to it.
The PM of course has to monitor team performance (integral) but it is tricky when you realize that there could be a member of the team not meeting the agreed upon expectations. It is natural that this would happen, people are human and maybe the expectations are even in need of a revamp. But of course it all begins with a good discussion because after all, project management is all about communication.
So, when you have to go over performance feedback the PM should go into the discussion with a plan which includes highlighting both the good performance metrics as well as those that may be coming up short. This can’t be done with generalizations either. You need specific examples. Just as you wouldn’t be allowed to tell your manager that “we should be on time and within budget” you need solid examples in this discussion. Vague and ambiguous feedback leads to anxiety, even if it is given in a constructive way. It also gives you talking points to specifically address.
One of the easiest concepts for me to grasp in the study of PM was Human Resources, because we have all been there. There are many motivational techniques that have been documented (Herzberg, McGregory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs) and while those all make sense when you examine what they mean, it really comes down to finding the right motivational techniques for each individual on your team. If the feedback is disappointing to your team member you need to find the right opportunities and stress the positives as well to encourage morale. That sounds obvious, but only pointing out the negative is not going to motivate anyone to want to look for ways to fill the gaps or improve.
Feedback is also crucial. This is a discussion, not just you pointing out positives and or negatives. The perspective of any team member is always valuable and points to my earlier topic. Have the expectations been set too high or not communicated correctly? This is the time to get that all out on the table and work through every issue and concern.
Finally, you have to have an action plan out of any of these discussions. You can’t just have this wonderful, productive conversation and then think all will be well. That is far too shortsighted. You need to set and document any action items that must come out of this conversation and arrange a time to follow up on them to make sure that this whole conversation wasn’t a giant waste of time. That should also be a mutually agreed upon time for follow-up.
Everyone has positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses. Usually when the need to have a conversation like this occurs it is because the team member is playing to their obvious strength and talent and if there is an imbalance, it is the PMs responsibility to make sure an honest discussion can occur to make everyone aware that the project will require balance and alignment of each team member, which may include spending more time on the areas where they don’t excel. It could be as simple as that. Managing a team is all about assessing and figuring out with the team how to accomplish the goal. As long as the lines of communication are well defined both ways, the HR role of the PM is actually a very natural thing to incorporate into the flow of the project. People communicating to make it work wins every time.